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Huangdi, Yellow Emperor


 
The historicity of Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor) is debatable. Modern scholars generally hold it as a deity in origin who has been shaped by historical accounts into an apparently real human figure. However, this never by any means prevents him from being held in awe by the Chinese folk.

The cultural significance of Huangdi is mostly symbolic. He is said to be the ancestor of the Chinese nation (mainly the Han ethnic group), and the initiator of Chinese civilization who has a number of inventions to his credit. It is fairly common to hear a Chinese claim to be a descendant of Yan-Huang (Emperors Yandi and Huangdi). Therefore, starting from early twentieth century, Huangdi became a nationalist symbol, under which all Chinese are to unite. (This is especially important in the state’s efforts to unite Taiwanese and overseas Chinese.)

A stele at the Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor, reading "the ancestor of (Chinese) civilization".



According to myths, Huangdi and Yandi were both tribe-leaders in the primitive times. Yandi lost a decisive war against the “Nine Li” tribes led by Chi You, and fled to Zhuolu (near today’s Beijing) where he allied with Huangdi to fight back. Huangdi engaged Chi You in the Battle of Zhuolu. Chi You was a god of war, invincibly bronze-headed and backed by 81 horned and four-eyed brothers. In the war, he breathed a dense fog which darkened the battle-field. But Huangdi was to invent a chariot equipped with a direction-telling mechanism (probably something like a compass), and led his forces out. Chi You then stirred a storm, and Huangdi got assistance from the gods to stop the rain and wind. Huangdi won the battle, and had Chi You executed.
 

A "direction-telling chariot" modelled after that invented by Huangdi in the war against Chi You.



Huangdi’s tribe was later to defeat Yandi in the Battle of Banquan, and conquered more territories after that, becoming the primary ruler.

A lot of inventions and innovations in Chinese civilization have been credited to Huangdi. He is said to have invented the palace rooms, the Chinese crown, early Chinese astronomy (with the Chinese calendar), code of sound, etc. He is recorded to have taught people how to build shelters, tame wild animals and grow cereals, make carts and boats, etc. The writing system of the Chinese language was invented by Cangjie upon Huangdi’s order. Huangdi’s wife Lei-zu is believed to have taught people sericulture, silk-weaving, and clothes-dyeing.

Leizu, principal wife of Huangdi, is believed to have taught people sericulture, silk-weaving, and clothes-dyeing.

Huang Di Nei Jing, the fundamental classic of Chinese traditional medicine. Much of the medical theories and practices was recorded in a Q & A format between Huangdi and his ministers.

 


 

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